Cut Throat Dog review

What seems like a fairly standard spy plot is twisted by the author

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Cut Throat Dog Joshua Sobol


An agent named Shakespeare – or maybe Hanina, or Samael, or about 100 other names – is working in New York when he spots a man from his past. The character may be Tino Rossi, a Syrian who killed Shakespeare’s friend 30 years ago. Shakespeare tracked him through the desert and thought he was dead, though rumours persisted that he lived. Shakespeare then finds himself in a spontaneous caper to determine whether the man is the guilty party after all.

Author Sobol takes what sounds like a fairly standard spy plot and twists it into something almost unrecognisable. From the outset, Shakespeare’s mental clarity is called into question and both his memories of his former life and the currents of his contemporary life come at the reader in hallucinatory waves. Part of this derives from his ability to take on various identities, sometimes assuming new names mid-conversation.

All of the literary feints act as both a send-up and earnest critique of covert culture. Shakespeare seems to have himself fooled half the time, and the reader shares his addled stumbling, which hints at the way government secrecy bleeds into civilian life, making it even more quixotic and less secure.

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